Just Rannin' Around

Saturday, October 29, 2011

People fascinate me. 

It has been that way since I was a very small child.  My parents had to keep a tight rein on me anywhere we went or I would disappear.  Not that I was attempting to cause them stress or even that I knew that it caused them stress, but I just wanted to talk to everyone that I met.  There has always been a draw to connect with others, to be able to, in a small way, see how they experience life.

Traveling opens up so many more opportunities for me to really hear, feel, taste, see and touch people and their lives throughout the world.  It is a gift given to me by a loving Father in heaven that knows me better than I do myself.  From all my many experiences I have come to learn that I tend to find instant love and respect for the lands and the people whom I come into contact with.  It gives me a greater understanding and testimony of the pure love of God for each and every individual on this world and on worlds without ends.

So it probably shouldn’t surprise me or anyone that knows me well that one of my favorite things about this trip was the people.  I was longing to stay rather than coming home because I felt like I hadn’t had time enough just to be amongst the people.  I know where to best spend my time next time I am able to visit.

One of the best places to be in their environment was Old Jerusalem.  I was only able to spend time in the Jewish Quarter and the Muslim Quarter.  It was entering into an entirely different part of my soul.  These people are beautiful. 

We happened to be there during the Feast of the Tabernacle which meant thousands of Jews were there to worship and celebrate.  Although we were not able to actually touch the Wailing Wall because of the massive crowds in attendance, we were able to experience something more intense and spiritual.  I believe it was the opportunity of a lifetime to witness thousands of Jews with their palm branches in their rituals.  The rabbi would read, actually more like sing than read, over the sound system verses from the Torah and then the men in unison would repeat or answer with different verses (I couldn’t tell since it was all in Hebrew).  I know need to spend some time studying the Jewish faith in order to gain a better understanding.

Walking through the Jewish Quarter, I was drawn to the children.  Life there seemed so relaxed and happy.  The one thing that I really wish I could have recorded was the children that came skipping down the street just getting out of school clapping and singing and laughing.  I just didn’t think a picture would have captured the moment preciously and so I choose instead to just experience it.

While we were in the Muslim Quarter I was supposed to be with the group but other things quickly captured my attention.  Small groups of men were gathered in circle together.  I walked closer to get a sense of these wonderful people.  As I got closer and took a seat on the steps leading up to the Dome of the Rock, I received a treasure for my memory box.

The oldest man in the circle would read (really sing) verses from the Qur’an and then the other men in the circle would either repeat or answer with different verses.  Again I couldn’t tell since I don’t speak Arabic.  It was so intimate and so rich with meaning that chills immediately ran the length of my body and I was drawn to sit and listen.  My soul was touched. 

Religion is such a personal and deep part of this world.  Our testimonies are something that so many of us live and even something for which we would die.  There have been so many wars and so much destruction all in the name of religion and yet sitting there I wondered why we just can’t just respect the beliefs of others.  I truly believe that people are innately good and that they are just attempting to live the best way and up to the light and knowledge that they have. 

I could honestly go on for volumes about the people.  It is another witness to me about everyone being a loved child of God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It’s raining men . . .

I need to take some serious stock and a long, detailed look at whether or not I am living in the right country for me at this time.  I have never had so much male attention in my life!  It came from men between the tender ages of eight all the way through about sixty and it was non-stop.  I couldn’t turn around without another comment or someone stopping me to talk.  Call it what you want, but I called it flattering and quite hilarious. 

Like I stated it started with the man sitting next to me on the plane ride over and it never did stop. 

**By the way this is not in anyway to brag because I am still beside myself in shock and disbelief that it happened.  I really have never received so much attention in my life.  Honestly when it comes right down to it I really believe that it had nothing to do with anything except that I have blue eyes and they don’t see them that often in their country.  The other things that I attribute it to are the facts that I am an American and I was one of three under the age of sixty without a husband at my side.  Really I am not under any false disillusionment and know that once men get to know me they run fast and far . . . it wouldn’t take them long to figure that out . . . no matter which country I lived in.

There were so many daily incidents that I am just going to highlight a few of them.  This is all just as a record for me because it was an odd turn of events and no matter how I look at it . . . it was a part of the trip that just shouldn’t be forgotten.  I wasn’t really positive where else to document it.

First my favorite

It happened on the streets in Bethlehem.  We had just been to visit the Church of the Nativity and were walking down the streets back to the buses.  The cutest little boy, who couldn’t have been any older than about eight stepped in front of me, looked me straight in the eyes and said in broken English, “Hello, I love you!”  It melted my heart.  I was shocked that he wasn’t selling anything and just continued on his way down the street. 

In America we don’t learn how to barter.  Almost all other countries barter and I will admit that I am TERRIBLE at it.  I don’t know how to do it and it makes me uncomfortable because just tell me what the price is and then I will decide whether or not I want it.  I would rather not buy anything than have to barter.  Well I guess that when you have a captive audience that can’t take their eyes off you, you don’t have to barter because they just want to give you things.

We stopped to shop for a while and there were two guys behind the counter that were in their early 20s.  I was looking at some olive wood carvings and they were talking to me about where I was from and what it is like here.  There were a few others from the bus standing around that were bartering with them on the same items that I was looking at while we were talking, so I was aware of what they were offering others.  When I finally choose a couple of pieces that I wanted they looked at each other and had a short discussion in their language and then wrote a price on the paper that was less then what they had given anyone else.  I paid them and went back and sat on the bus.  A few minutes later one of the ladies from the yellow bus stuck her head in and said, “Um those guys are frantic because they don’t get your address and phone number and they want it.”

I got held up at every security check not because they were concerned about me being a trouble maker but because they wanted to look at me for a few extra minutes.  I even made a few of the security people blush just by smiling at them.  The best time was as I was going to board a plane in Cairo.  There were three men all about my age sitting behind the monitor watching the x-ray machine to make sure there was nothing in our bags that shouldn’t be carried onto a plane.  I had set my bags down and walked through the metal detector when they stopped me and waved me over.

Very seriously they were pointing at things in a bag that they said I was very bad for having and trying to get on the plane.  Honestly I couldn’t even tell from the monitor what they were showing me.  After a couple of minutes, Annette, who was waiting to go through finally called out to me and said holding my bag up, “Brenda, your bag isn’t even in the machine yet.”  At that the three men burst out laughing.  They were totally just giving me a hard time.  I joked with them for a minute about tough security and then one of them looked and me and said, “You’re just so beautiful we had to stop you.”  I thanked them for the entertainment and finally was able to get through security. 

I had men giggling like little girls all over three countries and I have been kissed in the most random locations by perfect strangers.  Yes, I can even say that I have been kissed in the great pyramids.  It definitely kept a smile on my face.

The last stand out incident actually lasted the entire week we were in Israel.  One of our bus drivers took a liking to me.  He would find me and give me a hug every morning and at the end of every night as they dropped us off . . . even if I wasn’t on his bus that day.  He got concerned as the week was wrapping up and told me that he needed a woman like me.  I laughed and jokingly said that it was a really long distance between Utah and Israel.  He jokingly then told me that if I wouldn’t move there, he would move here because I would be worth it.  I had to smile.  He made my week.

As we were exiting the bus at the boarder for the last time he found me in the midst of collecting my bags.  He gave me a long hug, a kiss on the check and then pressed a slip of paper in my hand.  I opened it and he said, “That is my address and phone number, please you have to write me.”  Then he threw me back into a hug and said good bye.  It was so cute.  It’s not often that I have someone care that much whether or not they ever hear from me again.  It made me feel good.

Well those were some of the highlights of my couple of weeks of being desired.  No worries, I am aware that this is one of those once in a lifetime happenings and I won't let it go to my head.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Having traveled as much as I have and never having an issue of any kind, I was not prepared for the plane ride that I received.  Of course it started out normal . . . well normal maybe a bit of a stretch.

Annette and I were not seated together on the plane.  We are big girls and were fine with that knowing that we would be either reading or sleeping most of the flight anyway, it just didn’t matter who was sitting next to us.  However upon boarding the little old lady sitting next to me was frantic that she wasn’t sitting by her friend.  As luck has it, her friend was actually sitting next to Annette so I graciously gave up my aisle seat and sat in the middle with Annette on my left and what would soon become my new fast friend on my right.

I spent the next two straight hours chatting with the gentleman to my right.  He was from Jordan and was currently living in New York but going back home to visit his mom.  He told me all that was wonderful about where I was going and the places that I really shouldn’t miss visiting while over in his country.  Then the personal questions started coming which I tried politely to side step as much as possible.  Regardless his personal space slowly started to disappear and invade mine.  He suddenly couldn’t talk to me without having a hand on my knee or arm or hand.  His shoulder was casually resting on mine.  All I have to say is that it is a really good thing that I don’t have much of a personal space bubble or it would have been miserable.  Luckily he finally got tired and decided to go to sleep.

Right around that time my stomach started not to feel so grand.  I told myself that it was nothing and went to sleep.  About an hour and half later I woke up really not feeling well and feeling extremely trapped in a very small space.  I made it about another hour or so before I couldn’t hold onto my dinner any longer and I was miserable.  Never before have I needed one and the only time that I did . . . not a bag to throw up anywhere to be found and everyone sleeping around me.  The plastic bag taken off the blanket the airline provided would just have to work. 

So it was only six hours into a twelve hour flight and I was not a happy camper and I was just feeling more and more miserable.  Not a good thing to start watching the time ticking down when there are still six hours left.  It makes for a very long flight.  After a while I still wasn’t feeling well at all.  My mind started swimming and tears started forming because all I wanted was off that plane and in a bed.  It took me some time before I realized that I had a whole plane full of priesthood holders.  Ever ask a stranger for a blessing in a plane?  I can now say that I have.

About an hour before the plane landed and way too many trips to the bathroom later (sorry Annette for climbing over you so much), I started to feel better.  The gentleman sitting on my right finally decided to come out of his sleep and immediately the chatting started up again.  As we were sitting waiting to exit the plane he handed me a wad of money.  Not US dollars but money I didn’t recognize.  He told me it was Egyptian money.  So I did what I thought he wanted and looked at it and said it was cool and attempted to hand it back to him.  He would have none of that.  It was a gift he said and I needed to keep it so I could buy something in Egypt.  He told me that the 30 pounds that I had in my hands wasn’t much anyway and that he wouldn’t accept it back.  At that point I didn’t want to be rude and really couldn’t think of how to politely force him to take it back, so I just said thank you.  Not even 24-hours into the trip and strange men were handing me cash, oh if I had only realized that this would be the beginning of a hilarious tale. 

It wasn’t until we were waiting to collect the luggage that Annette admitted that she wasn’t feeling all that well either.  As we discussed it, the conclusion that we came to was that eating clam chowder in New York had given us a bit of food poisoning.  I discovered that the worse place to have food poisoning is 35,000 feet in the air, stuck in the middle seat on a twelve hour flight with everyone sleeping.  Something that I hope nobody else ever has to experience. 

We arrived in Amman, Jordan at 4:45 pm their time and immediately handed over our passports and went to collect our color coded luggage.  Color coded?  The tour company had assigned us to one of two buses . . . it was either red or yellow.  Somehow they just knew that I wouldn’t be happy on any color but red and had been so assigned.  I quickly learned that the red bus was the fun bus and I would come to love so many new friends on that bus. 

We finally got to our hotel and checked in and called it a night.

**This is the last post that is going to give you a daily run down.  If you want a day by day, you will just have to come and visit me as I have typed up everything that happened each day and will be putting with the pictures that go along with it.  Instead on here I am going to break it down into sections of happenings so that I can record it on a different level than I did with my pictures or in my personal journal.  I am hoping that the three different perspectives will somewhat do justice to the trip.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I once took a quiz on USA Today and this is what it said about me . . .

“You are culturally adventurous in all walks of life and love to explore different avenues of tastes and trends.  Because your body is also important to you, you look for flavors that are unusual but still healthy and delicious, and you are constantly on the lookout for the next food trend.  You are an emotional spirit and you make really strong connections.  Good friends and lots of laughs are the recipe for really happy days.  And nights!

You’re sophisticated and inquisitive with a real passion for art and culture.  You pride yourself on being an early adopter of the latest music and films and always like to have a good book on the go.  Your ability to bring together very diverse and even dissenting opinions is rooted in your appreciation for all points of view.  You believe in immersing yourself in interesting experiences that make you look at people, places and opportunities from new angles.  Being sensitive and creative you want to feel connected to the world around you and actively seek out opportunities to explore it.  It’s all about broadening your horizons and living life to the full.  Anything else would not fulfill your curious nature.”

I believe that I just had one such adventure.  Oh where to begin . . .

Part 1:

The red eye flight into New York, I guess that is where one should begin . . . at the beginning.  Honestly I don’t remember much about the flight since I sat down and immediately went to sleep.  Landing at 6:15 am is just about all that my memory now can recall.  It was the adventure looming within my grasp that had my full attention anyway. 

Sometimes I am smart and this just happened to be one of those moments.  I had made reservations for a hotel room.  It was a hilarious thought to me that I had rented a hotel room by the hour . . . made me giggle a bit thinking about the implications that go behind doing that.  The irony of that exact thought didn’t lose any humor when the mission president and his wife came and picked me up from said hotel.  It is probably wrong that I find it so funny, but I will fully admit that I can’t help but think that it is. 

Anyway . . .

I was more than excited to be able to spend some time with President and Sister Nelson.  He wrapped me in a huge bear hug when I walked out to meet them.  There is almost nothing that warms my heart more than a hug.  I have missed having him here for the past two years and the ability to go to his home any time I was needing a hug and a listening ear that truly was concerned about me.  He exemplifies for me what a priesthood leader should embody.

He took us to breakfast and we were able to catch up on how their mission has been going and they were able to catch up on our lives at home.  Although I would have loved to have spent all day with them, it was transfer day for the mission and he had to go meet with some of his missionaries.  He again enveloped me in a hug and then very fatherly told me to be very careful in the rest of my travels.  Then he gave us directions to the Manhattan Temple and set us on the subway to continue on our journey.  That was definitely the best way to start my vacation.  I am a bit upset that in all the excitement that we forgot to take a picture . . . that however is so like me.  I always forget to take pictures.

One of my goals in life since I was rather young was that I wanted to do work in every temple.  That goal used to be much more attainable since there were only around 70 temples when I decided that and most of them were in the United States.  Now there is almost double that amount and it is a bit more of a daunting task especially since there are four to five more temples announced every six months. 

The Manhattan Temple is pretty amazing.  It is on an extremely busy intersection and yet when you enter the doors, all noise disappears.  It is one of the smallest temples that I have had the opportunity to visit.  It is on a couple of floors along with the chapel on another floor for Sunday services.  The feeling of being in a sacred house of God was the same as every dedicated temple on this earth no matter its size or location.  I was again reminded through the Spirit that the work of the Lord carries forward wherever the authorized priesthood resides.  That is a very peaceful, comforting feeling.  The session was beautiful and my heart was touched and reminded of things that I know. 

After the session (this time remembering to take pictures), we went to grab something to eat before heading back to the airport for our flight to the Holy Land.  Let the adventures begin!!

Monday, October 03, 2011

“All athletic contests have boundaries, lines drawn on the floor or on the field within which every participant must stay in order to compete.  The Lord has drawn lines of worthiness for those called to labor with him in this work.  Whoever you are or whatever you have done, you can be forgiven.  Come join the ranks.”  -Jeffrey R. Holland

I have been pondering a lot on the repentance process.  It hasn’t just been recently.  It has been a subject that I have wrestled with for quite some time now.  In the past I have always been able to come to peace with repentance because I have been able to fulfill all the necessary conditions.  This time I am lacking being able to what for me feels complete by not being able to apologize and ask for forgiveness from the other party. 

I absolutely hate to admit when I am wrong or when I have done something wrong.  I will full on admit that this is partly why I truly attempt to just make the righteous decision from the start.  It saves me the pain and embarrassment that I know will come later.  However because I am so not close to being perfect, I make mistakes small, large and everywhere in between ALL. THE. TIME.  Try as I might, I fail.  Sometimes I make the same mistakes over and over again to the point of frustration and wanting to throw the white flag up in defeat. 

Circumstances being as they are I am having to live with the consequences of my decisions.  A couple of stupid decisions that have cost me more heartache than I knew was possible and lost me so much joy.  It is hard to step back and realize that there is a destructive pattern in your life.  To be able to actually see each small flaxen cord that has been carefully wrapped around you from beginning to now is a frightening awakening.  It is nobody’s fault but my own.  I knew better.  The cost has been more than I can bear.  There is always a price with consequences and you never get to pick what they entail.

It will never get back to the right person just how sorry I am that I made the decisions that I did.  That I would make wiser, better decisions if only it were possible to change them which would hopefully change the outcome.  I take full responsibility for my actions and for my decisions.  I know I need to live up to the higher standard and I completely failed to do so.  Can I rationalize why I did what I did?  Yes, but that would get me right back into the position I am now.  I know nothing I can say or do will ever bring back what I have lost, but for what it’s worth I am deeply sorry and I know I failed you.


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